AfterShock Comics has a new horror series out this week called Beyond the Breach, featuring grotesque monsters, familial conflict, and a road trip. All three are horrors in themselves! Set in California and headed to the big trees of Oregon, Ed Brisson and Damian Couceiro reveal a younger woman named Vanessa is driving to escape the fact that her boyfriend is sleeping with her sister. Maybe it’s because I recently booked an eerily similar road trip myself, but this first issue is an exciting first stab at good monster comics.
The issue opens with Vanessa driving through a forest in Cooks Valley, California singing to herself about how much of a jerk her boyfriend is. She seems relatively okay — she’s pissed, but she’s not losing it at the moment. After a quick recap of her predicament via some smartly placed messages from her ex, her car suddenly falls from the sky down onto what appears to be the very same road she was driving on. Only, it’s night. Other cars are crashed. And a man is being eaten by some kind of insect alien monster. It’s a smash-cut of a reveal that doesn’t stop from this moment on.
As the story progresses, Vanessa must save herself, a small child, and even befriend what appears to be a Gremlin-style style beastie that’s friendly. It’s intense, thrilling, and leads to a quieter moment of self-reflection. That is before hell literally comes knocking and Vanessa reaches the comics cliffhanger. This first issue’s biggest weakness is a lack of plot progression.
The main selling point for many will be the gnarly monster design by Couceiro. These monsters are twisted and disturbing, seemingly defying logic, and they certainly don’t look familiar to any other horror story. Outside of the monsters, the book captures the realism be it clothing, environments, or vehicles. A key element in horror like this is making the reader believe this world is real, and Couceiro does so in spades.
Patricio Delpeche makes the creatures come alive with good fleshy hues amongst the strange green bodies of the flying creatures. The setting is also a bit unnerving as it’s clear it’s dark, but unnaturally so. You can tell from the darker tone in colors and the use of shadow.
Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou are strong, with a “…please help me!” ringing very true as it expands from its weight and size. Word balloons have a very clean and tight look until all hell breaks loose. A well-placed “Hey!” with a word balloon that breaks its edge on one corner helps convey the urgency of the word.
The only gripe might be that it lacks a lot of plot development. From the first page to the last, it doesn’t move along very far nor contain many answers. When Vanessa is holed up and talking about herself in the last few pages it’s nearly a rehash of what we already know. It leaves you wanting.
Beyond the Breach is a great example of a horror story establishing a setting so well you’re committed for the long haul. It has great creature design and clean art, letters, and colors, too. Beyond the Breach is the perfect summer drive-in horror in comics form.
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